Yes, a purple train was the first thing I saw from the window of my ‘hotel’ when I rolled up the blind in Macclesfield this morning. My local guide and interpreter, Roger Treglown, suggests that I was hallucinating, but in fact it wasn’t the purple train so much as the window itself that was worrying me. It was the first thing I saw when I arrived here on Wednesday evening. It had been a long and tiring day, with Jane the satellite navigator pointing me unerringly in the direction of every traffic jam between London, Boston Spa and eventually Macclesfield. (I had to go to Boston Spa about the Book – being distributed from there next week, fingers crossed).
But, the window. A very loud sign on it announces, “Warning : For your safety this window is restricted”. What does this mean? What can it mean? How do you restrict a window? Why? The view from it does not appear to be restricted in any way – if only it were, consisting as it does mainly of Macclesfield railway station, rusting gantries and a car park. Or perhaps this is just a painted backdrop – and the stunning beauty of the real Macclesfield is being withheld from me, in the interest of my safety. Am I being restricted, rather than the window? Am I only allowed to look out of it at certain times? Or for limited periods? Are there things I’m not allowed to look at? What does this mean?
A closer examination of the window revealed a curious assemblage of wires and locks. Has it been electrified? That would somehow be in keeping with the ethos of the ‘hotel’ – think Cold War, think Eastern European ‘hostel’. Spartan isn’t quite adequate as a description. Completely bare room, save for what I at first took to be a wall-mounted radiator, but which I now think may be a piece of ‘art’.
Rattled by the window, more rattled by the radiator, I thought I’d make a cup of tea. But the plastic kettle turns out to be bigger than the sink (about the size of a teacup). To fill the kettle, I have to scoop handfuls of water with – well, my hand (slightly quicker than the teaspoon). Feasible, certainly, but awkward – for it now turns out that not only is the kettle bigger than sink, but I am just about bigger than the bathroom.
But let’s not dwell on all that – although there was that business of the mud on the stairs this morning. Stairs were clean and tidy when I came in last night after an excellent dinner with Roger. This morning they were covered in mud – not just one or two pairs of muddy boots, but hundreds. When, where and why? Because after two nights here, I still haven’t seen a single other ‘guest’. Just empty and endless corridors.